It takes a while to find Delaney Mitchell and Melissa Green’s names on Piedmont’s season scoring stats.
But if one could make a list that measured their value as defensive presences, their names would be near the top. Because on a team with a head coach, Jordan Stark, that preaches defense first, the two undersized, but quick guards fit right in.
“They’re fighters and they know what we need to win a game on any given night,” Stark said. “Even if they’ve not been incredibly successful on the offensive end, for me, defense wins games.”
Green, a sophomore, has cracked the starting lineup for Stark this season almost entirely because of her defensive prowess. By her own admittance, Green’s shot remains a work in progress, but her defense comes to the court every night. That’s why she’s started more than half of the Lady ‘Cats games this season, though teams often sag off of her on the offensive end. Green is that valuable defensively.
“She’s one of the quickest guards we have,” Stark said.
Which means Green often gets the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best player when Piedmont plays its box-and-one defense. A task Green looks forward to each time it’s given to her and has had multiple times this season.
“I’ve always really liked defense. I like the challenge,” she said.
Green is, perhaps, Piedmont’s most intense and focused player. For proof, look for the permanent scowl she keeps while on the floor, which Green swears is unintentional.
“I’ve noticed that looking at pictures. I always look mad, but I’m not,” she said. “I’m just really focused.”
Mitchell is only a nose behind Green in on-court intensity and has the bruises to prove it. She says that after the black eye she earned against Blanchard last Saturday in the Newcastle tournament – it’s a real shiner above and to the right of her left eye – she’s totaled four black eyes between her time as a varsity player at Duncan and now Piedmont.
It was a bit embarrassing for Mitchell to walk into school, a place she’s gone for a less than a year since moving from Duncan, with the hard-to-miss mark. But inside the Lady Wildcats locker room, it’s a scar that displays her toughness for all to see, in case they somehow missed it on the court.
“This is the biggest one yet by far,” she said.
More than just hounding the other team’s offense, Mitchell is a tremendous rebounder for her size and leads Piedmont in steals. Her willingness to stick her nose in whenever and wherever it’s necessary, literally, probably accounts for her black eyes, but is also why she racks up so many rebounds and steals.
“Delaney reads the floor really well which is why she picks off a lot of passes,” Stark said. “She reads the ball really well whether it’s being passed or coming off the rim, so that puts her in great position.”
Mitchell said finding the basketball and securing it is something her mom and Piedmont assistant coach Sandy Mitchell ingrained in her from a young age.
“I’m really competitive, I’m really aggressive and I hate losing,” the senior said. “I like getting the ball and starting a fast break for our team.”
Stark marvels at both players’ ability to provide what seems like endless energy for Piedmont for an entire game.
“I don’t know what they run a lot of the time. I don’t know what they’re eating, but it’s working,” she joked. “But they do bring a ton of energy. It’s hard to match.”
When the season began, Stark’s first at Piedmont, the Lady Wildcats had few players that had ever played varsity basketball for PHS, Green and Mitchell included. Stark’s first goal was to implant the sort of culture she wanted in the program.
Then and now, the defensive duo of Green and Mitchell have been at the forefront.
“I think all of the girls respect the fact that they’ll get down and dirty, they’ll fight and come up with loose balls and do whatever they need to help us,” Stark said. “They’re good at setting the tone for what’s expected.”